Conservation & Environment

Grizzly Creek Fire now largest in history of White River National Forest

Posted by on Aug 18, 2020 @ 6:57 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Grizzly Creek Fire now largest in history of White River National Forest

Over the weekend, the Grizzly Creek Fire became the largest in the history of Colorado’s White River National Forest as far as acres burned.

As of Sunday morning, the fire had burned 20,665 acres of national forest out of a total burn area of 25,690 acres in just six days, according to U.S. Forest Service data. The additional acres are on Bureau of Land Management grounds or private property.

White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams said the Grizzly Creek Fire erupted so significantly because of hot, dry and windy conditions and because firefighting in the early stages was so difficult versus the steep, inaccessible terrain.

“Once it left the median of the highway, it was off to the races,” Fitzwilliams said Sunday. “There was no way to fight it.”

The fire started in the median of Interstate 70 on Monday afternoon, August 10, 2020, climbed the steep slopes to the north and later in the week jumped the Colorado River and made a run in the terrain to the south.

It’s ripped through terrain that was inaccessible to firefighters. Air tankers and helicopters dropped numerous loads of retardant and water but that only slowed the growth. The fire is now approaching fire lines on both sides of the river, but there is still potential for extensive growth in acreage, according to Fitzwilliams.

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Ed. note: If you’ve ever driven I-70 through iconic Glenwood Canyon west of Vail, CO, you know of the terrible loss of beautiful natural landscape the Grizzly Creek Fire represents. It is said to have burned the forest surrounding the incredibly gorgeous Hanging Lake, high above the canyon floor.

 

Interior Establishes Task Force To Develop Strategy For Tackling Maintenance Backlog

Posted by on Aug 16, 2020 @ 6:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Interior Establishes Task Force To Develop Strategy For Tackling Maintenance Backlog

In less than two months Interior Department officials intend to have a plan for attacking the maintenance backlog across the public lands in the nation.

Via a secretarial order a task force was created to look out across the National Park System, U.S. Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lands to determine a priority for spending billions of dollars set aside through the Great American Outdoors Act for tackling the backlog.

As passed by Congress, the act will send $6.5 billion to the National Park Service to battle deferred maintenance in the National Park System and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The challenges with prioritizing Park Service projects is obvious. The roughly $12 billion backlog has been growing at a rate of hundreds of millions of dollars per year in recent years, annual sums that will lessen the impact of the additional $1.3 billion expected to be made available annually through this funding.

Among other activities, the task force will identify an initial list of priority deferred maintenance projects that are ready to be implemented in Fiscal Year 2021 and provide the list to the Secretary of the Interior.

Full story here…

 

A wildlife refuge under siege at the border

Posted by on Aug 13, 2020 @ 7:07 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A wildlife refuge under siege at the border

During the fall of 2019, the Department of Homeland Security began pumping large amounts of water from a southern Arizona aquifer to mix concrete for the Trump administration’s border wall. The aquifer is an essential water source for the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, so when the pumping escalated, U.S. Fish and Wildlife officials watched helplessly as the water levels at several ponds — the main habitat for the endangered fish at this Sonoran Desert refuge — dropped “precipitously.”

Since its creation in 1982 the 2,300-acre refuge’s sole mission has been to protect the rare species of the Río Yaqui, including endangered fishes like the Yaqui chub and Yaqui topminnow, and other species, such as the tiny San Bernardino springsnail and the endangered Huachuca water umbel, a plant that resembles clumps of tubular grass. Through a series of artesian wells connected to an aquifer, the refuge has kept ponds filled in this fragile valley for nearly 40 years.

Under normal circumstances, a significant construction project like a border wall would be required to go through an extensive environmental review process as dictated by the National Environmental Policy Act. The Department of Homeland Security says it operates under the spirit of NEPA and solicits public comment.

But with environmental laws — including NEPA, the Endangered Species Act and the Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act — waived for the border wall, the refuge lacks any legal protection, either for itself or the endangered species in its care. So wildlife officials have tried to work with the department, sending hydrological studies and providing recommendations about how to reduce water use near the refuge.

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Outer Banks Forever announces new projects for Outer Banks national parks

Posted by on Aug 11, 2020 @ 6:49 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Outer Banks Forever announces new projects for Outer Banks national parks

Outer Banks Forever, the local nonprofit partner of the three national parks of the Outer Banks – Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Fort Raleigh National Historic Site and Wright Brothers National Memorial – has announced its new slate of projects and programs to protect and enhance these special places.

Each project aims to enhance the park experience for locals and visitors, expand education and access opportunities and provide the margin of excellence expected from the Outer Banks national parks. Each project will be implemented as funds are raised through donations, corporate sponsorships, and grants.

Outer Banks Forever will continue its popular Adopt-a-Pony program, which supports the care of the ponies on Ocracoke Island, as well as its involvement in the Love the Beach, Respect the Ocean campaign in conjunction with the National Park Service, Dare County and local EMS and lifesaving services.

New projects include: a series of new educational displays will be installed at Wright Brothers National Memorial along the walkway from the First Flight Boulder to the base of Big Kill Devil Hill; build an ADA-accessible kayak launch at the Oregon Inlet Fishing Center; and build a multi-use path in Buxton at the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

More plans here…

 

This giant climate hot spot is robbing the West of its water

Posted by on Aug 9, 2020 @ 7:21 am in Conservation | 0 comments

This giant climate hot spot is robbing the West of its water

On New Year’s Day in 2018, Paul Kehmeier and his father drove up Grand Mesa until they got to the county line, 10,000 feet above sea level. Instead of the three to five feet of snow that should have been on the ground, there wasn’t enough of a dusting to even cover the grass.

The men marveled at the sight, and Kehmeier snapped a photo of his dad, “standing on the bare pavement, next to bare ground.”

Here, on Colorado’s Western Slope, no snow means no snowpack. And no snowpack means no water in an area that’s so dry it’s lucky to get 10 inches of rain a year. A few months after taking the photo, Kehmeier stared across the land his family had tilled for four generations and made a harsh calculation: He could make more money selling his ranch’s water than working his land.

“In all my years of farming in the area, going back to about 1950, 2018 was the toughest, driest year I can remember,” said Paul’s father, Norman, who still does a fair share of the farm’s tractor work at 94.

This cluster of counties on Colorado’s Western Slope — along with three counties just across the border in eastern Utah — has warmed more than 2 degrees Celsius, double the global average. Spanning more than 30,000 square miles, it is the largest 2C hot spot in the Lower 48.

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Italian homes evacuated over risk of Mont Blanc glacier collapse

Posted by on Aug 8, 2020 @ 6:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Italian homes evacuated over risk of Mont Blanc glacier collapse

Homes have been evacuated in Courmayeur in Italy’s Aosta valley, after a renewed warning that a huge portion of a Mont Blanc glacier is at risk of collapse.

The measures were introduced after experts from the Fondazione Montagne Sicura (Safe Mountains Foundation) said 500,000 cubic metres of ice was in danger of sliding off the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses park.

Glaciologists monitoring Planpincieux say a new section of ice is at risk of collapse. Homes were also evacuated in September last year following a warning that 250,000 cubic meters of ice could fall. The movement of the glacial mass was due to “anomalous temperature trends”, the experts said… scientific speak for climate change.

The glacier has been closely monitored since 2013 to detect the speed at which the ice is melting.

In August 2018, a heavy storm unleashed a debris flow, killing an elderly couple when their car was swept from the road that is currently closed.

Cite…

 

Trouble on the Trails: Forest Service Grapples with Crowds, Trash and Human Waste

Posted by on Aug 6, 2020 @ 6:22 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Trouble on the Trails: Forest Service Grapples with Crowds, Trash and Human Waste

The coronavirus pandemic has drawn increasing crowds to the great outdoors, including many popular hiking trails, swimming holes and recreation areas in the White Mountains. But the burst in popularity has created new problems for the folks who manage New Hampshire’s national forest. The problem is the same throughout national forests in the United States.

Tiffany Benna, who oversees recreation for the U.S. Forest Service, walks through the Lincoln Woods parking lot. “I was like almost holding my breath coming around the corner going, ‘Is it going to be?…Oh, wow, it is – it already is full!’ she says.

There are no spots in the 150 space lot, and there are 80 cars parked on the shoulder of the Kancamagus Highway where it’s now common, on weekends, to find 300 cars parked, and sometimes double parked, on the road.

The Forest Service expected this. Additional porta-potties and dumpsters have been set up in high use areas. What they didn’t expect was the more recent shift in public behavior.

“We’re seeing human waste along trails,” Benna says. “We’re seeing graffiti which we haven’t really seen, on boulders and rocks along the trails, not just on our signs. And we’re also seeing a lot of people, like 100 volunteers go into the forest and pull out 300 pounds of trash.”

The reason for this, Benna says: First time visitors to the forest who just don’t know what’s expected of them.

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Billions for national parks as historic bill becomes law

Posted by on Aug 5, 2020 @ 6:40 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Billions for national parks as historic bill becomes law

After spending his presidency denying climate change, placing coal and oil industry officials in top environmental jobs, and weakening dozens of public health and wildlife rules, President Donald Trump reversed course and signed a historic law to pump billions of dollars into long-neglected repairs and upgrades at America’s national parks.

The measure, known as the “Great American Outdoors Act,” is the most significant new federal conservation law in 40 years.

Environmentalists cheered, finally securing a win they have sought for more than 20 years. “The Great American Outdoors Act is a truly historic, bipartisan conservation accomplishment that will protect wildlife habitat, expand recreational opportunities, restore public lands and waters, and create good jobs,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation.

The new law makes two landmark changes. First, it will provide $9.5 billion over the next five years to repair roads, restrooms, trails and campgrounds at America’s 419 national parks — from Yosemite to the Everglades — and at other public lands where facilities have fallen into disrepair after years of neglect and funding shortfalls.

Second and more enduring, the bill would guarantee $900 million a year to the Land and Water Conservation Fund in perpetuity. Congress created the fund in 1964, requiring that up to $900 million a year in offshore oil revenues go to buy new park land and maintain local parks as a way for outdoor conservation and recreation to keep pace with a growing population.

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Natural Bug Spray Recipe to Make at Home

Posted by on Aug 2, 2020 @ 6:34 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Natural Bug Spray Recipe to Make at Home

When you head outside to enjoy nature, there are often biting insects waiting to delight in your company. Even if you are a mosquito magnet, you may not like the idea of spraying synthetic chemicals on yourself or your kids to repel pests. Natural bug sprays are safe and can be an effective way to repel bugs instead.

DEET is the active chemical ingredient used in many insect repellents. DEET has been found in products sold since the 1950s and an estimated one in three Americans uses a repellent containing DEET each year. DEET is generally safe if used correctly, but there are effective alternatives for those who wish to avoid it.

Most repellents that are applied to your skin have to be registered with the EPA, which means they’ve been evaluated for safety and effectiveness. The agency also evaluates some unregistered natural ingredients used as bug repellents for safety. They haven’t been tested for effectiveness. They include citronella oil, cedar oil, geranium oil, peppermint and peppermint oil, and soybean oil.

If you don’t want to spray anything on your body to repel insects, there are other natural ways to deter bugs from biting you.

Try placing plants that repel unwanted insects in your garden.
Because mosquitoes are attracted to dark colors, wear whites, khakis, and pastels.
Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn when mosquitoes are most active.
Make your yard less attractive to mosquitoes by eliminating standing water, using a fan, and installing bat houses.
Avoid heavily scented perfumes, soaps, lotions, and other personal care products that can attract bugs.

See recipe for home made repellent here…

 

A jobs program to plug abandoned oil wells sounds like a win-win. Is it?

Posted by on Jul 29, 2020 @ 7:16 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A jobs program to plug abandoned oil wells sounds like a win-win. Is it?

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic shook up the oil industry, America was full of defunct oil wells. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, or perhaps millions of holes in the ground — no one knows how many there really are — abandoned by their former overseers when oil stopped gushing to the surface or when those overseers went broke. The holes leak methane, a powerful greenhouse gas that’s heats the planet 86 times more than CO2 in the short term, as well as other pollutants. In a world changed by the coronavirus, with bankruptcies among oil and gas producers rising, the problem is expected to get worse.

A report from Resources for the Future, a nonprofit research institution, and Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy asked whether there might be a joint solution to the economic crisis wrought by the pandemic and the ballooning problem of abandoned wells: a federally-funded jobs program that would put oil and gas workers back to work plugging up the holes. The program would be administered by the state-level regulatory bodies that currently oversee well-plugging.

It’s an attractive idea, and the authors are not the first to present it. Similar schemes have been simmering among state leaders, environmental groups, and liberal think tanks over the last few months; a version was proposed in an infrastructure bill that was passed by the House of Representatives in early July; and Canada recently dedicated $1.7 billion to such a program. But it’s not as simple as it sounds.

The scale of the abandoned wells problem and the cost of doing something about it are wildly uncertain. The new report attempts to work within that uncertainty to show what a jobs program could reasonably accomplish, while also warning of the risks of having taxpayers pay to clean up the oil industry’s mess.

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More than 100 volunteers cart trash out of White Mountain National Forest

Posted by on Jul 27, 2020 @ 6:51 am in Conservation | 0 comments

More than 100 volunteers cart trash out of White Mountain National Forest

People are getting outside this summer to take socially distant walks on the beach or go on hikes – anything to get outdoors. But many people who visit scenic areas are noticing trash is piling up.

More than 100 people worked together to try to change that in the White Mountain National Forest.

“I was seeing a lot of posts about trash,” said an organizer of the event. She called on hiking communities on social media to help clean up New Hampshire’s beloved trails.

Hikers found everything from t-shirts to tires, metal scraps and subwoofers. Teams of up to four checked in at at Mount Washington Observatory Weather Discovery Center in Conway and in Lincoln for a day of trekking and cleanup.

“We chose the more loved areas that are easier to get to because you find, like 3 or 4 miles in 4,000 feet up, you don’t find that much trash obviously and the hikers usually pick that up so it’s great. So we went to the waterfalls and things that get a lot of visitors,” she said. “I would say that we probably had between 275 to 315 pounds collected.”

The hundreds of pounds of trash is off to be destroyed. An incinerator service volunteered to do that for free.

Cite…

 

National Parks Are Getting Trashed During COVID-19, Endangering Surrounding Communities

Posted by on Jul 25, 2020 @ 7:01 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Many national and state parks, supposed to be untouched swaths of time-proof wilderness, have been overrun by first-time visitors seeking refuge from quarantine, joblessness, or the inability to take far-flung vacations. And as people have flooded into the parks, new crises have arisen for rangers and nearby communities, including indigenous populations who were already particularly susceptible to the coronavirus.

“A lot of tourists who come through here, they think it’s unfair that we’re trying to have a lockdown and that we’re trying to keep outsiders out,” says Alberta Henry, a member of Navajo Nation who operates a camping rental business outside the Grand Canyon. “A caucasian man from Tennessee came onto the reservation and told my nephews, ‘Get those effing masks off! What’s wrong with you?’ People are openly racist, even in front of my children.”

Before the pandemic, national parks were already exploding in popularity. In 2019, the National Park Service tallied 327 million visits—9 million more than the previous year, and the third-highest total since record-keeping began in 1904.

Many of these parks briefly shut down once the pandemic hit a crisis point in March and April. But as states began to reopen, so did parks, albeit with some restrictions. But eager recreationists have found a loophole around the restrictions: arriving early in the morning before the regulations are enforced.

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DuPont State Recreational Forest Expands

Posted by on Jul 24, 2020 @ 6:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

DuPont State Recreational Forest Expands

There is now more land in DuPont State Recreational Forest (DSRF), including clear trout streams, rare wildflowers and important wildlife habitat. On July 1, 2020 Conserving Carolina conveyed 315 acres to the N.C. Forest Service, south of the main body of DuPont. This is the second phase of the Continental Divide Tract—a long-sought conservation priority that provides the “missing link” between DSRF and a vast conservation corridor spanning over 100,000 acres.

Last year, Conserving Carolina added 402 acres to DSRF, in the first phase of the project. Now complete, the Continental Divide Tract includes 717 acres of new public land. The property straddles the Eastern Continental Divide, which separates the waters that flow toward the Atlantic seaboard from those that flow toward the Gulf of Mexico. The Continental Divide Tract protects pristine headwater streams, including tributaries of both the Green River and Reasonover Creek.

The Continental Divide Tract creates a link between DSRF and a vast corridor of conservation land that extends for over 100,000 acres along the North Carolina-South Carolina state line. This includes Jones Gap State Park, Caesar’s Head State Park, Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, Headwaters State Forest, Greenville Watershed, Jocassee Gorges and Gorges State Park—and, further west, Sumter and Nantahala National Forests. The tract also buffers two large protected summer camps—the 2,600 acre Green River Preserve and the 1400-acre YMCA Camp Greenville.

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Dragonflies reveal mercury pollution levels across US national parks

Posted by on Jul 23, 2020 @ 6:41 am in Conservation | 0 comments

Dragonflies reveal mercury pollution levels across US national parks

Dragonflies are used to measure mercury pollution in a citizen science program that began over a decade ago.

The national research effort, which grew from a regional project to collect dragonfly larvae, found that the young form of the insect predator can be used as a “biosentinel” to indicate the amount of mercury that is present in fish, amphibians and birds.

Methylmercury, the organic form of the toxic metal mercury, poses risks to humans and wildlife through the consumption of fish. Mercury pollution comes from power plants, mining and other industrial sites. It is transported in the atmosphere and then deposited in the natural environment, where wildlife can be exposed.

As part of the decade-long study, researchers came up with the first-ever survey of mercury pollution in the U.S. National Park System. The research found that about two-thirds of the aquatic sites studied within the national parks are polluted with moderate-to-extreme levels of mercury.

The finding of mercury within park sites is not an indicator that the source of pollution is in the parks themselves. Mercury is distributed widely within the atmosphere and is deposited in the protected areas as it is in other water bodies across the country.

The study also found that faster moving bodies of water, such as rivers and streams, featured more mercury pollution than slower moving systems including lakes, ponds, and wetlands.

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A youth Civilian Conservation Corps will build a trail of justice and hope

Posted by on Jul 20, 2020 @ 6:23 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A youth Civilian Conservation Corps will build a trail of justice and hope

Despite recent upticks in hirings, double-digit unemployment and a slumping U.S. economy have many drawing parallels to the Great Depression, complete with calls for a new Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal that provided millions of young men with conservation jobs.

While there are some similarities between now and then, the contrasts are far more glaring. Today, in addition to the prospect of a profound recession, we confront systemic racial injustice, deep societal fault lines and the ongoing risks and uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A modernized CCC would replace age-old barriers with bridges to opportunity, unite young people behind a common cause and equalize the playing field for a new and diverse generation of rising leaders.

Close to 4 million college graduates have entered the most daunting job market in decades, where unemployment among 20-24 year-olds stands at nearly 20 percent. For African Americans, overall joblessness in June topped 15 percent and Hispanics were right behind at nearly 15 percent.

Beyond spurring employment, however, we must ensure that new corps members’ assignments are strategic and impactful. The original CCC planted more than 3 billion trees and built trails and shelters in over 800 parks. Much of their work still stands and benefits recreational users today.

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A New Plastic Wave Is Coming to Our Shores

Posted by on Jul 16, 2020 @ 6:38 am in Conservation | 0 comments

A New Plastic Wave Is Coming to Our Shores

Andrew Wunderley crouches in the sand to pick up a milky white sphere. He pinches the lentil-size orb between his thumb and forefinger. It nearly pops out of his grip. The little pellet is made of brand-new plastic and has all the wondrous qualities of the material—light, smooth, and virtually forever-lasting. Many more are scattered in the high-tide line of the wide, windswept beach, the pride of Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina, a barrier island at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. He drops the pellet into a glass jar and picks up another, then another.

Before plastic is formed into forks or garbage bags or iPhone cases, it is born into the world as these orbs. The plastics industry calls them pre-production pellets, or sometimes just resins. Everyone else calls them “nurdles.”

For the past few years Charleston has been transforming into a major plastics export hub. The city is a middle step in the material’s supply chain: Companies receive train cars of nurdles from states like Texas that they then load onto container ships and send overseas.

The challenge is hardly confined to South Carolina; nurdles are turning up in waterways and on beaches all over the world. What’s more, the tiny pellets are just one symptom of a growing trend: larger volumes of cheap plastic being manufactured faster than ever.

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California condors return to Sequoia National Park for the 1st time in decades

Posted by on Jul 9, 2020 @ 6:31 am in Conservation | 0 comments

California condors return to Sequoia National Park for the 1st time in decades

For the first time in at least three decades, California condors were spotted in Sequoia National Park, an area that was historically part of the endangered bird’s range.

At least six of the majestic scavengers visited the park in late May, including four seen flying near the famed Giant Forest and at least two near Moro Rock, a geologic dome and popular hiking spot, the National Park and U.S. Fish and Wildlife services said in a joint statement.

The biggest land bird in North America, California condors once inhabited the length of the Pacific Coast from Canada into Baja California. The birds disappeared from the wild by 1987 due to poaching, lead poisoning and habitat destruction, but a captive-breeding and release program has helped them resurge in their native habitat in recent years.

Before their near extinction, the birds were known to nest in the cavities of giant sequoias throughout the Sierra Nevada. Wildlife biologists at the Santa Barbara Zoo now use GPS devices to track their movements, and were able to confirm condors had returned to the towering trees and cliffs within the national park.

The birds have recovered to a wild population of around 340 from just 23 in 1982, at which point survivors were brought into captivity to preserve the gene pool through captive breeding at the Los Angeles Zoo and San Diego Wild Animal Park. They were first released back into the wild in 1992 in the mountains of the Los Padres National Forest.

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With Three Pipelines Down, the Future Is Looking Green

Posted by on Jul 7, 2020 @ 7:16 am in Conservation | 0 comments

With Three Pipelines Down, the Future Is Looking Green

On July 5, 2020 it was announced the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP), which would have carried fracked natural gas through 600 miles of West Virginia, Virginia and North Carolina, will never be completed.

Pipeline owners Dominion and Duke Energy announced they were cancelling the fossil fuel project due to mounting delays and uncertainty. They said the many legal challenges to the project had driven up the projected costs by almost half, from $4.5 billion when it was first announced in 2014 to $8 billion according to the most recent estimate. Environmental and community groups, who have long opposed the project on climate, conservation and racial justice grounds, welcomed the news.

Details here…

Then, on July 6, 2020 a District Court judge in Washington, D.C. ordered that the Dakota Access pipeline must shut down by Aug. 5, in a stunning defeat for the Trump administration and the oil industry.

The decision is a momentous win for American Indian tribes that have opposed the Energy Transfer Partners LP project for years.

The U.S. District Court said a crucial federal permit for Dakota Access fell too far short of National Environmental Policy Act requirements to allow the pipeline to continue operating while regulators conduct a broader analysis the court ordered in a previous decision.

The ruling scraps a critical permit from the Army Corps of Engineers, and requires the pipeline to end its three-year run of delivering oil from North Dakota shale fields to an Illinois oil hub.

Details here…

Also on July 6, 2020 the U.S. Supreme Court handed another setback to the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada by keeping in place a lower court ruling that blocked a key environmental permit for the project.

Canadian company TC Energy needs the permit to continue building the long-disputed pipeline across U.S. rivers and streams. Without it, the project that has been heavily promoted by President Donald Trump faces more delay just as work on it had finally begun this year following years of courtroom battles.

Monday’s Supreme Court order also put on hold an earlier court ruling out of Montana as it pertains to other oil and gas pipelines across the nation.

Details here…